St Edmund’s Roundhay has hosted one of the last weeks of this year’s night shelter project for destitute asylum seekers.
Run by WYDAN (West Yorkshire Destitute Asylum Network), this is the second year the Winter Night Shelter has run in Leeds.
One of the volunteers at St Edmund's, Jean Livesey, said, “We had up to seven guests each night – from Zimbabwe, Iraq, Eritrea, Egypt and Iran. I was moved by their endurance and their gratitude."
“I learned about the asylum system and was very humbled by the positive attitude and determination of our guests.
“I gained much more than I put in. It’s shocking to think that by simply being born in a different country, it could be my family going through the same terrible experience.”
Last year over 400 volunteers and 13 host organisations provided 417 nights of accommodation to 15 men.
Many churches said the project had helped bring their communities together with volunteers coming from several local churches. In one case, the local church provided catering and sleepovers, and the local mosque and Sikh community supplied food.
Katrina Burton from WYDAN says, “There are a number of points in the UK’s complex asylum process where, because people have no recourse to public funds and no right to work, there is a risk of destitution. Many of the guests at the shelter would have had to sleep on the streets, so they were deeply impacted by the welcome they received and the opportunity to make new friends”.
One guest said, “This experience has given me hope. Through meeting people and having really interesting conversations I've learned so much. It has helped me psychologically and I feel much better.” And another: “This project has been the best thing since I came here three years ago. I now have friends across the city of Leeds. I went to every church we stayed in and talked to the congregations.”
It is hoped that the shelter will continue next year, but there currently remains a question over funding.
Contact Katrina Burton wydan.shelter [at] gmail.com.
To support WYDAN see here http://wydan.org/appeal-for-funds-august-2016